A few weeks ago I attended a briefing with former Attorney General, Eric Holder, about the 2018 midterms, and without a shred of hyperbole in his voice, he told those of us in attendance that these upcoming elections may be some of the most important of our lifetime.
The urgency in Holder’s voice that afternoon can be both heard and seen all over the country, on the internet, at social gatherings and even around the dinner table. Everywhere you look people are stressed out about politics.
It has been decades since Americans were this vocally divided. And while neither side seems to see eye-to-eye on much, there is one sentiment that has been persistent across the board:
“If you don’t vote – you’re canceled.”
For those who are unaware, “cancel culture,” is the name given to the growing practice of calling out, mocking (and in extreme cases “canceling” and/or boycotting) a person, institution, or brand – in response to what you believe is problematic behavior.
Brands who support oppressive practices get canceled. Celebrities who say dumb things they probably should’ve run past their team first, get canceled. Black men who are even suspected of dating white women may get canceled. And if one of your posts from the less woke olden days (i.e pre-2014) are tracked down, and reveal you used to be a bit of an idiot… then you too may run the risk of getting canceled.
Sometimes these social draggings are for noble causes and incite amazing change. Other times, they just ruin the lives of people who are ill-equipped for the wrath of the internet.
But if you are considering NOT voting today, and are confused as to why that stance may jeopardize your social standing, below is a quick list of 5 reasons why sitting on the sideline during the 2018 midterms may get you excommunicated.
Now more than ever political tribalism is at an all-time high thanks to the divisive antics and misleading propaganda being spread by president Donald Trump. As a result, many people see the opposing side as one-dimensional archetypes rather than as complex beings and require you to “pick a side” before trusting your intentions.
In this crudely oversimplified worldview, all liberals are seen as “snowflakes”, who want to let immigrants take over our country and this scares the delicate sensibilities of white America. Alternately, all conservatives – are viewed as Trump supporters who are too busy collecting MAGA hats to fact check their king.
If you tell a Democrat or a Republican that you’re an Independent or a member of the Green Party they may squint at you suspiciously as they try to figure you out. But if you admit that you’re sitting out the elections all together…. for many, that’s just plain unacceptable.
And whether they say it to your face or not, it may get you canceled.
You didn’t have your community’s back
Trump and those associated with his camp have gone out of their way to undo much of the social justice work that was championed during the Obama administration. As a result, during this year’s midterms, there are a lot of marginalized communities whose long-awaited and newly acquired rights are in jeopardy.
That list includes women, the LGBTQ community, the African-American community, Muslims, Jewish people, and immigrants just to name a few.
If your immigrant, LGBTQ or Muslim friends give you the side-eye for not voting during an election where their futures are literally on the line, you can’t blame. To them, you had an opportunity to show your support when it mattered most – and you didn’t.
You didn’t earn your seat at the table
After November 6th, the holiday season will be upon us which will include lots of social engagements and gatherings with loved ones. Since the 2016 elections, the period from November until December has become particularly precarious time, when heated political debates with people you only get to see once a year are almost inevitable.
If you want to be able to call out your homophobic grandparent or misogynistic uncle on their political views, you better hope that no one at that table finds out you didn’t even care enough to vote in midterms. Because if they do, they will most likely clown you from the first course all the way through dessert.
They may even talk bad about you behind your back. And your younger cousins, who pride themselves on being “social justice warriors” – most likely decided to cancel you weeks ago and are just waiting for an opportunity to cuss you out during dinner.
Your ancestors are petty
Black people have a long history of pulling from the strength of their ancestors to gain guidance, wisdom, and peace of mind. Even people of color who aren’t deeply religious often make reference to the spirits of their deceased elders.
So if you really want to show respect to your great-grandparents, why not exercise the rights that many in their day died fighting for?
I have a friend who dislikes many in politics. But given that her family has been in this country for hundreds of years, she makes her way to the ballot every election and votes as a way to honor people who struggled for civil rights, women’s rights, and for the rights of all the diverse voices in this country that often get silenced.
She once mentioned to me that she’s convinced her ancestors are petty and would be pissed at her if she didn’t do her civic duty.
So, if you’re like my friend, go vote so you don’t get canceled by Harriet Tubman, your late grandma or whoever else you suspect is on the other side watching.
You need to stay current
Many of us were probably at our most mentally active during our school years. This is because when you know you’re going to be constantly tested on something, you tend to devote a lot of time into researching it and making sure you have all the information needed to pass those tests.
Well, civic engagement promotes the same sort of thought process.
Voting isn’t just a privilege, it also keeps you in the headspace of a student. Except for this time, if you get the answers “wrong” the lives of millions could be affected.
With the political stakes so high these days, those who want to vote intelligently often stay informed on current events and even look into the candidates so that they can choose people who stand for their values and beliefs. The whole process is very active.
Meanwhile, when you aren’t a voter and have no test (or in this case a ballot) to fill out, it’s easy to lose touch, and remain uneducated.
Right now, when Black voters are being asked more than ever to get involved, and political pundits like Van Jones and Angela Rye are becoming household names, staying uneducated can be interpreted as an act willful ignorance.
Folks will definitely take notice, and in some cases cancel you if they get a sense that you aren’t willing to do your part. Now, do I personally plan on canceling anybody based on whether they vote or not? Of course not. But in the words of writer and early Black Panther leader, Eldridge Cleaver, “If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.”
Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric